The name Sinclair was stamped on single-person electric transport way back in 1985 with the world's first mass produced electric vehicle – the Sinclair C5. Fast forward to 2010, drop a wheel, shed lots of weight, add modern batteries and you start to get a picture of the newly developed Sinclair Research X-1. Essentially an electric-assist recumbent bicycle with an open-sided fairing, it has the aerodynamics, ergonomic pedaling position and weather protection of a velomobile, yet its weight and price are closer to those of an electric-assist bicycle.

Sinclair is widely known for its C5 pedal/electric three-wheeler, which was designed by company founder and pioneering inventor of the ZX range of computers, Sir Clive Sinclair. The mid-80s vehicle was a commercial flop – only around 17,000 units were sold. Reasons cited for its lack of popularity include poor battery life, worries about drivers not being able to see it on the road and rider exposure to the elements. Look around at the current landscape littered with electric-vehicles and single-person transport concepts however, and you could well argue that it simply suffered from being a vehicle ahead of its time.

The Sinclair C5

A quarter of a century later – not surprisingly – the X-1 appears to have addressed all of those problems with its modern-day 24V lithium battery, tall stance and some rain protection via its acrylic bubble canopy. It also has a 190W MCR pancake motor linked to the rear wheel by a fixed gear drive chain, an integrated roll cage and a carbon fiber monocoque chassis with built-in front and rear lights. It all adds up to a total weight of 30kg (66lbs), which is the same as an eSpire electric-assist mountain bike.

If there’s anything that looks iffy on the X-1, it’s those little 16-inch wheels. They won’t be the greatest for attaining high speeds, and look like they would fit nicely inside of a good-sized pothole.

The Sinclair Research X-1 is priced at £595 (US$846), with an expected delivery date of July 2011.